How To Date A Serial Killer: Pepper Spray, Safety Checks, and Our First Date - Securing Sexuality Podcast Episode 31
Securing Sexuality is the podcast and conference promoting sex positive, science based, and secure interpersonal relationships. We give people tips for safer sex in a digital age. We help sextech innovators and toy designers produce safer products. And we educate mental health and medical professionals on these topics so they can better advise their clients. Securing Sexuality provides sex therapists with continuing education (CEs) for AASECT, SSTAR, and SASH around cyber sexuality and social media, and more.
Links from this week’s episode:
Staying Safe in the Digital Age: Safety Checks for Dating Apps, Privacy and Security in Relationships, and Protecting Yourself When Meeting Someone New.
As the digital age continues to evolve, so does the way we date. From online dating sites and apps to social media platforms, there are more opportunities than ever before to meet potential partners. While this can be an exciting and rewarding experience, it’s important to remember that safety should always come first. Here are some strategies for staying safe when dating in the digital age.
By following these strategies for personal safety and digital security while dating digitally, individuals can ensure their overall wellbeing is taken care of while still having fun getting acquainted with others through various online platforms!
Hello and welcome to Securing Sexuality, the podcast where we discuss the intersection of intimacy and information security.
I'm Wolf Goerlich.
He's a hacker and I'm Stefani Goerlich.
She's a sex therapist and together we're going to discuss what safe sex looks like in a digital age.
But today we're really not, right?
Because we're going back almost a decade at this point, which I suppose technically is a digital age, but not exactly cutting edge. We are talking about our first date.
Why, my love, is our first date relevant to this podcast?
Well that was when I learned that safety checks were a thing for dating. You did and we'll tell the story of the safety check, but I think people would be curious to know who between the two of us was encouraged, nay mandated to have a safety check ahead of our first date. That would be me.
Yes, listeners, I almost said readers. I went in a very Jane Austen direction there in a minute.
Yes, gentle readers, Wolfgang Goerlich had a safety check on our first date because his friends thought I might be a serial killer. Well and I mean, to be fair, you were talking about slashing and you had bones.
Alright, you're jumping ahead.
So yes, human bones do factor into the story and perhaps should mitigate some of the low key irritation I feel at being safety checked on a first date.
Well, but I mean, I think that there's a lovely love story, a romantic art, so to speak, to get us to that point.
So where do you want to start?
Well let's pause before we hit the romance. Let's talk about equality of expectations. You felt a little bit annoyed that there was a safety check. I thought you'd tell everyone to have safety checks.
I mean, at the risk of sounding sexist, I tell my female clients to have safety checks because statistically, women are more likely to be exposed to violence and danger when they are meeting up with people that they don't yet know.
Frankly, we are more at risk of being exposed to violence and danger when we're meeting up with people.
So yeah, at the risk of seeming a little behind the times, you were the first guy I had ever met who had a safety check plan in place. That's because I am a modern man. I believe in equality of the sexes and apparently equality of the safety checks.
So because you were on the planning side of the safety check, why don't you start off the romantic meat queue of Wolf & Stuff and tell people how we met and how we got to a point where your friends thought you needed a safety check. All right. So years and years ago, I was doing a whole bunch of fun things, checking out new places.
I thought, hey, wouldn't it be cool to do improv?
And anyone who's done improv realizes that it sounds cool until you do improv. So there I was. I'm doing improv, taking these classes, and I thought this would be a great way to meet people. But instead, it was almost all 20 something girls. So which is great, but that is not necessarily the dating pool. That's like my daughter's age.
There I was with a whole bunch of 20 something girls and we were doing an improv show. And as you may know from doing these types of things, someone shouts out a hint. And that hint they shouted out was Tinder. Now I am an avid outdoorsman. I love to hike. I love backpacking. I love a good campfire. And that's what I started doing. I started gathering wood and building a little campfire.
Meanwhile, the lovely 20 something who was my partner, she was on her phone and I was very confused. And she was very confused. And the audience, dear reader, was very amused.
Afterwards, I'm like, what are you doing?
The hint was Tinder.
She goes, what are you doing?
The hint was Tinder. And I said, like a fire.
She goes, no, like the dating app. And that was when she realized the old man doesn't know what a dating app is. So these 20 somethings in this improv class that I was going to decided to help me out and figure out what Tinder was and how to use it.
Meanwhile, I was recently divorced and sitting with my single friends. And one of them looked at me and said, I'm bored. Let's swipe together. You're swipeable now. And I said, I don't know what that means. And she too pulled out her phone and introduced me to Tinder.
And so I have to say, you know, while Tinder started out as a hookup site, I think it's fascinating that neither one of us were necessarily aware of it or using it for that purpose at the time.
Yeah, no, I was still under the impression you just went somewhere and met people.
Well, you do, but you meet college kids. Yes. And by the way, if anyone of that improv group is listening, love you all to death and you guys are fantastic. And it was so much fun. But I really did feel like the old man really did.
So you and I connect and they were giving me some advice, right?
Like, oh, look at this, look at that.
And like, why, what is this slashy slashy thing?
As well as what are some of the things in your profile?
And they were a little bit confused and someone made the joke that maybe you're a serial killer. And at the time I was doing healthcare consulting and I believe at the exact moment you were having this conversation, I was at a medical conference and the speaker was passing around a family heirloom that had been passed down from doctor to doctor as each generation in their family went into medicine.
And it was a human femur from like the early 1800s. So you are sitting at the improv class trying to decipher my – what I thought was very elegant and sophisticated – Tinder bio language. Apparently, it just came across as confusing. They were positing that perhaps I could be a serial killer. And in that immediate moment fortuitously, serendipitously, I sent through a picture to you of me holding a human femur.
You know, to be fair, they say if you're dating, you're supposed to be memorable. That was very memorable. What I love about the story is that they saw that and tried to warn you away from me. That it had gone in their minds from maybe a serial killer to high probability of serial killerhood. And your reaction was to say, but I've never met a serial killer before.
Why would that be a reason not to go out with her?
I haven't. It's true. And I mean, as far as I know, you still haven't. So there's that.
Well, and so who knows, right?
How many serial killers were you telling me?
You gave me a number one time. The FBI says, I believe that there's somewhere between 20 or 200 active serial killers in the United States at any given time. And we travel a lot. We do. So maybe we go to busy places. So maybe we have met a serial killer, but you have not yet dated one. Right. So I have not dated one and maybe I'm just not a serial killer's type.
Tell me about this.
What was the safety plan?
What system did you come up with the college improv kids to keep you safe from me and my borrowed human femur?
There's a couple things. They're like, well, maybe you should look her up. And so we made sure that you were not like in any prison records, at least by the name that you gave online, which could be fake. This was before I think Tinder does like real ID checks now, but this was before that.
So make sure that you're not in any prison databases, make sure that no one else had tied around you. They wanted me to meet in public. Like don't don't go back to her place.
I'm like, well, why not?
Well, because if she's a serial killer, she'll kill you. So that was a thing. And they were like, you should tell someone where you're going and check in with us after you're done. So I have a question about that. Yeah. If something were to happen to you, let's say I decided that you were going to be the next femur in my collection.
How would they prevent that if the signal is he didn't call us?
I'm assuming that you wouldn't have called because the damage had already been done. Right.
Well, I was texting a group chat. So in theory, you could have killed me in text to the chat and let her know that it was OK.
I mean, I'm telling you this now after the fact, I wouldn’t have at the time.
And there's like apps now for this, right?
There are. And there are accessories. You know me, you know I am a fashion fiend. And there is actually personal protection jewelry that is on the market now that, again, skews more feminine is geared certainly towards a female audience. But there are lovely bracelets.
There are necklaces with really pretty charms and lockets on them that are connected to apps that will let you in a pinch sort of quickly notify some pre designated safety people. So the jewelry front, I actually think is really fascinating because whenever we think of personal safety devices, I always think of my orientation when I started grad school down in Detroit.
Detroit has come a long way, but like any big city anywhere, there are some rough spots. And I remember our college advisors at orientation talking to us about whether pepper spray was illegal in the city versus mace. What sort of little keychain personal protections. It looks like a kitty, but if you put it on your fist, it'll stab somebody in the face sort of devices.
And oh yeah, I have a little personal protective kitty because at the time, pepper spray was not allowed in the city. But we've really gone from these very sort of defensive, only useful when an incident has occurred sort of strategies to being much more mindful about prevention, being much more mindful about discrete intervention.
It's not, we're not weaponizing singles and telling them, you know, if the date goes sideways and she pulls out the femur to beat you with it, you can fight her off with this pepper spray. We're saying here's this really attractive watch fob that you can have that if you press it three times will alert the guys in your improv class to come and get you.
And I think that is a really fascinating evolution in how we're thinking about personal safety in general these days. It's no longer an individual responsibility to defend yourself. Now it's become a collective request for assistance.
So two parts to that one silly and one serious, which do you want first?
I always will go silly first.
Okay, I love the idea of pushing the button and then comes an improv troupe, right?
Like oh no, something's happening and you push the button and they burst into the restaurant, right?
Because we went to an Italian restaurant. So they burst in the restaurant in between like bread and cocktails, but before the mains and they're like, we need a suggestion and someone shouts out, ask them about this. And they're like, okay, great. Now we need a location.
What about a bank?
And now, okay, now we're acting like a bank robbery, moving around chairs and everything.
And the maitre d is like looking very disappointed and disapproving and giving you like the evil eye like what did you do to cause a safety check?
We did not want an improv safety check in our restaurant, sir.
I mean, I do like the idea of taking suggestions from the audience on how best to intervene in your pending abduction.
Yeah, yeah, this could be a fantastic scene. I love everything about this.
On a serious note, I think you're onto something, right?
In that so much of security today is going together, right?
Going together, collectiveness. We're going to watch each other's back. We're going to be there for each other. I do like what you're saying about that. And when I look at a lot of these apps, I'm looking at one right now online, WordTalk, you've got your close friends that you can connect to. You've got an emergency circle. You can keep the people in the loop on.
Here's ways to ask for help without saying anything. I think all that is very, very smart. I am concerned, obviously, about how reliable it is, how secure it is, who's keeping these systems locked down if it's tracking all that information.
Because if you've enabled all your locations to be tracked, my mind immediately goes to like, what about a stalker?
What about an overprotective spouse who's using this to spy on you?
And with some of the jewelry-based products, I absolutely think that's the case because they are effectively working on a GPS system, right?
If you are wearing it, you are carrying it around with you and it knows where you are. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on some of the apps that are equally effective, I would say, or at least have similar strategies in efficacy, but are a bit more passive.
Meaning, if you're wearing the locket, the locket is constantly aware of where you are. On the other hand, if you have some of these apps, the apps only know where you are when you pull them out to use them. And I'm curious if that makes a difference in your mind. It does because you have the ability to control and set permissions on that. We can say - only use when open.
Personal security versus digital security versus digital privacy is what I'm weighing here.
Now, I'd be curious if I had set an app to say, hey, only use my location when I'm using the app.
What happens if my phone gets turned off or the app gets closed out or any number of things that can disrupt it?
So one of my favorite apps, I think, actually addresses some of those concerns. It's called Noonlight. N-O-O-N light.
Have you heard of this?
I have not.
It's pretty cool because what you do is if you've, okay, I'll use myself in grad school as the example again, right?
Like I'm walking from my school building to the parking structure three blocks away at 10 o'clock at night. That is a situation where perhaps I feel a little unsafe. So I can pull out the app and what you do is it's got a big button on it and it says hold until safe and you hold the button down and you keep holding the button down until I've made it to my car.
And then when I get into my car safely, get in, lock the doors behind me, I release my hold on the button and it asks me for a four digit PIN code. And that's how it knows that I've released my hold because I'm safe.
If I were walking that same path and let's say somebody tried to bug me and my phone got knocked out of my hand, I would release the hold on the button, of course. And without putting in that PIN code, the app would then know where I am based on GPS and send emergency support.
So I like that, but how is that going to help when I'm showing up at an Italian dinner with my beautiful possible serial killer?
Am I just going to hold that the whole time and you're not going to notice?
So I think that this is where some of the conversations that you have about balancing security and pragmatism and security and just everyday life is really important. I suspect that you wouldn't necessarily need to have an app like that out the entire time and it might make it hard for you to twirl your pasta if you're holding the new light button down for the duration of dinner.
But I also think that if we were sitting in a restaurant together, the likelihood of me beating you with a femur bone in that context at that moment is probably pretty low. So this gives people the flexibility to say, oh, well, he offered to walk me to my car or she offered to walk me home. I'm going to pull this out, have it in my pocket while we're walking.
And that way you can kind of tailor the level of oversight, the level of awareness of watchfulness to those moments when it makes the most sense to have it. So I love some of the jewelry options. I think if they make people feel safe, that's rarely an always bad thing.
I mean, you raise some good privacy concerns there. But if somebody wants to feel safe in moments where safety is more likely to be disrupted, I think new light's a great option relative to something that's constantly watching where you are, but doesn't necessarily have a way to discern when you're chatting in a restaurant versus when you're walking down a dark alley. I like that. I think that makes a lot of sense.
The other thing is just much like doing a safety check on the person you're dating, you should do a safety check on the software you're using for safety checks.
Because a rather well-known app in this space was found to be selling its aggregated user data, its location data, just a couple of years ago, right?
So whatever app you're looking at, you want to make sure that you want to make sure they're not selling your stuff.
Well, they're keeping you safe. And that's a risk with anything that we...
I mean, that's always the trade off, right?
Privacy versus security. And I do think it's a really important conversation for people to be having when they move from the, I'm going to call you at the end of the night and let you know I'm not dead, sort of styles of safety checks to something that's a little bit more watchful, pervasively watchful in the background.
But then the question is, well, where are you and what's happening?
And are they jotting down in your record that you stopped at Kroger and you spent 30 minutes in the grocery store?
how much of your data are you sharing with them about your non-intimate life, non-dating life movements when you use these sort of always watching digital tools?
Yeah. All right.
So are we ready to give some advice?
Do you have advice to give?
Sure. Ask your potential date if they're a serial killer. And if they are a serial killer, I would say perhaps don't.
Well, I think that's your mandate to tell, right?
Your mandate to report if you ask. That reminds me so much of the people in the cities that get caught up in vice stings when they say that they thought that if you ask somebody if they were a police officer, they're obligated to tell you. That the cops can't lie.
If you ask, are you a cop?
They have to be like, oh, you got me. Shucks. Which would kind of negate the entire concept of undercover work. And I suspect is probably a rule also not followed by your average serial killer. Let me ask you this question. If I was to have asked you back then, we're new, we're just talking over Tinder.
You're already not entirely sure I'm really me because who has a name like Wolf?
If I was to say, hey, by the way, just random question, are you a serial killer?
What would you have said?
Well, as a lifelong true crime aficionado, I would have been very curious about where the question was coming from. And I probably would have said something very similar to what my grandmother said when I first moved to Detroit. Because I am not originally from Michigan. I'm originally from Milwaukee.
And when I packed up and moved here at 18 years old, most of the adults in our world were very, very upset about this because Detroit in the late 90s was not the beautiful revitalized urban city that it is now. It was a scarier place.
And a lot, a lot of relatives called my grandmother and said, how can you let her move to Detroit?
What are you thinking?
Aren't you scared?
And my grandmother would sigh. And she goes, look, Stefani's first apartment was on Jeffrey Dahmer's block. Detroit should be scared of her. And Detroit was scared of you, at least as measured by your now husband and then improv troupe. So on that note, yeah, just be safe out there.
Have fun, everybody. Men and women, do a safety check in the apps. Do a safety check on your dates. Read the terms of service if you want one of the locket bracelet jewelry sort of protective devices out there. I understand the usefulness for a lot of people. I get it. But just make sure that you are aware of what they're tracking, when and how. All right.
With that, thank you so much for tuning in to Securing Sexuality, your source for the information you need to protect yourself and your relationships on those critical first dates. Securing Sexuality is brought to you by the Bound Together Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit. From the bedroom to the cloud, we're here to help you navigate safe sex in a digital age.
So be sure to check out our website, securingsexuality.com for links to more information about the topics we've discussed here today and, and, and, and information on our live conference in Detroit. And join us again for more fascinating conversations about human fevers and the intersection of sexuality and technology. Have a great week. Have a great week. Have a great week.